The last time India faced New Zealand, they were knocked out of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in a rain-affected semi-finals contest. Even though India will be looking forward to exact revenge of their heartbreaking loss when they meet in the series opening first T20I on Friday, their captain Virat Kohli feels it’s hard to get into that mood against a team that has been the torchbearer of the ‘spirit of cricket’.

“Even if you want to think of revenge, these guys are so nice you cannot get into that zone,” Kohli said on Thursday. “We get along really well with these guys and it’s all about being competitive on the field. As I said in England, they are probably one side that has set the example for teams to play international cricket.”

He added, “…they obviously want to bring out the best they can in every ball and every game, they are intense in their body language, they are not nasty, they are not doing things which are not acceptable on the field. It is not about any kind of revenge – it is two quality sides playing good cricket. It is a challenge to beat New Zealand here and we are totally up for it.”

Coming back to cricket, Kohli does feel that Kane Williamson’s men will have the home advantage but his team has played a lot in the country to be well prepared for the challenge. “They will have slight home advantage but we have played a lot here in the past seasons. Every series is a fresh start and New Zealand in New Zealand is obviously a bigger challenge than playing them back in India. So we definitely have to be at our best game,” he said.

KL Rahul has been the man of the moment and not just because of the consistency he has shown in the recent past. Having being pushed up and down the order, he has both set up innings and played the role of a finisher admirably.

However, it’s his latest role which could further make him an indispensable part of India’s limited-overs setup – wicketkeeper. In the recent home ODI series against Australia, following an injury to first-choice ‘keeper Rishabh Pant, Rahul was asked to take over the duties, albeit temporarily.

He did more than a decent job behind the stumps providing his team with another option to strike balance in world cup year. “As I said him (Rahul) doing well with the gloves has really opened up a scenario for us where it gives us a lot more balance in playing an extra batsman. This is something that we are looking to continue for a while; nothing taken away from anyone else and it is just what he brings to the side,” Kohli said.

“And I know there will be a lot said about, talks around what happens to other players and what not, but the most important thing is what the team requires and the best balance we can create for the side,” he said in an apparent reference to the future of designated keeper-batsman Pant.

On Rahul’s success, Kohli said, “He’s open to accepting any kind of role, whatever the team wants. He is a total team man and you can tell the way he keeps as well. He is always looking for an opportunity and looking to make a play. He’s not nervous about it.”

Opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan has been ruled out of the limited-overs leg of New Zealand tour with Prithvi Shaw getting a maiden ODI call-up as his replacement. “If you talk about replacements, we have a lot of T20 players around and people who are very experienced when it comes to playing T20 cricket. Having played a lot of matches in the IPL, on A tours and series, I don’t see an issue of replacement. Look, whenever he (Dhawan) is back in the team we would love to have him back and have the balance in the team where we can really go in with the best batting line-up that we have,” he said.